Arizona’s desert and mountain climates make it a year-round destination. The desert can have temperatures over 37 degrees (Celsius) in summer, but mid-teens in winter. In the northern mountains, summers can be quite pleasant, but the winters icy and snowy. Check before you plan your flights to Arizona as some places may surprise you — Sedona for one can be in the 30s in summer but cool enough in winter to get snow. In summer, the desert has thunderstorms that come up very quickly and cause flash floods. In winter, desert temperatures can drop to below freezing at night.
When to fly to Arizona
Winter is the peak season for flights to Arizona, especially central and southern Arizona, and summer is the peak season in northern Arizona and the mountains. Lake Havasu City is busy year-round: winter with retirees and snowbirds, college students on spring break, and summer has activities and events that keep the city busy June through August.
Summer is the off season in the desert and southern Arizona. Conversely, winter is the off season in northern Arizona. Spring and autumn are great times to book a flight to Arizona. The mountains are cool and the desert is warm, and in spring the deserts flowers are in bloom. In early autumn some desert resorts still offer summer rates.
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Getting around Arizona
Driving is probably the best bet for travelling round Arizona. Tucson and Phoenix have public transport for commuters, which also go to some of the attractions, but driving in these cities is generally reasonable. Free parking is available outside of downtown Phoenix, although finding a parking space can take some time in Old Scottsdale and the more popular malls. In Tucson, parking spaces are relatively easy to find and the fees are low.
Depending on which area you decide to visit after coming off your Arizona flight, you may want to drive just to take in the scenery. However, Arizona is the sixth-largest state, so if you are short for time, you may want to take flights. There are regional airports in Mesa, Payson, Prescott, Sedona, Chandler, and Scottsdale, and regional commercial carriers to fly you across the state quickly.
Arizona insider information
- Phoenix draws visitors with its warm and sunny winters. Outdoor activities range from golfing and hiking in the desert and mountains to viewing the scenery from horseback or hot-air balloons. Phoenix is also home to the renowned Heard Museum and the Desert Botanical Garden with its diverse collection of desert flora, and Taliesin West is in nearby Scottsdale.
- Set in the Sonoran Desert valley, Tucson is surrounded by mountains, some higher than 2.7km (9,000 feet). The city offers world-class golf resorts, museums, galleries, and the cultural diversity of its Native American, Hispanic, and Anglo history and residents. The Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum (it’s really a zoo) is to the west in the Saguaro National Park, and the southernmost ski area in the US is just a short drive away.
- The drama of Sedona’s red-rock buttes, canyon walls, and mesas against the Arizona turquoise sky is a sight to be seen, particularly at sunset. Surrounded by forest, Sedona has some of the best outdoor access of any Southwestern city, and for a change of pace, eclectic shops and galleries. The area is rapidly becoming built up, so see it soon.
- Prescott sits in a valley at the northern edge of the Bradshaw Mountains. The area has four moderate seasons and is popular for its climate, scenery, and outdoor activities with visitors and retirees alike. Prescott’s rich history is reflected in the downtown area’s 1890s saloon, cattlemen’s hotel, courthouse plaza, and museums.
- Lake Havasu City is the site of London Bridge, brought over from England and reconstructed over a channel. Under the bridge is an English Village, complete with shops and restaurants. The city also has water activities that draw college students on spring break, weekend warriors, and snowbirds and retirees in winter.